Though cartooning is not limited to drawing it requires a person to have ideas that can be translated visually. It is important to be well-versed with current events and read on a variety of things. The idea being that the cartoonist should be able to write captions, besides conceiving the idea. It is also imperative for aspirants to follow the works of cartoonists. There are a number of cartoonists who have carved a niche for themselves in different spheres of cartooning.
Art in some form or other has existed from the Paleolithic period, and as long as humans have existed, we have been attracted by and fascinated by it. Art affects society by its power to change opinions and translate human experiences. It is a repository of our collective memory. But it is the effects that art has on the mind and brain that truly deserve admiration. Art has been shown to have an impact on the brain by causing an actual increase in the levels of ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters.
Humans have two types of skills — physical and cognitive. Neuroscience show that even the simple act of drawing can improve our cognitive and higher cerebral functions. The essence of art is its perceptibly imaginary nature, which reflects actual experiences, feelings and sentiments. The mind being the target behind the idea of art as therapy, the same art can purify our sensual world through artistic catharsis-on-canvas, which could even ‘correct’ some psychological dispositions.
The art of cartooning is alive and kicking. Political and social cartoonists have often been pressurised and threatened by entrenched political leaders or religious groups — and some have even been assassinated. The cartoons and paintings cut across barriers of language and culture, and the galleries did not need captions to explain their powerful messages of change and justice in the face of discrimination.
It is futile to cry hoarse about the need to understand the larger text of which the cartoon is an illustration: not only is the text unexceptionably fair in its assessment of the Constituent Assembly’s achievements, it has anticipated many possible critiques of the constitution making process as well. Let it be said that what the textbook achieves is not only a way of reading Indian politics, but encourages a politics of reading, anticipating opposition, criticism and building defences. These are all experiences and challenges that our young people deserve. But representations have many lives, and are subject to fresh interpretation and critique. The possibility that an image offends in the present day, and becomes a call to political action, where it might not have had the same impact at the time of its production, needs to be fully recognised.
This is what has been achieved by those who have raised their voices against the cartoon. Far from being another affirmation of public unreason, the protests have brought the politics of reading to the fore. Filmi actors and cricketers gets Lion’s share of cartoons in the media. As a freelancer I got the opportunity to draw a cartoon on Gandhiji as a cricketer. My cartoon sent to Late Madhavrao Scindia got his appreciation letter filed to my scrap book. Drawing cartoon is an art no doubt.
Precisely for this reason, it is impossible to anticipate at which point or in which location a particular representation will cause offence. A career in cartooning is a demanding one.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)